School Budget Set at Record Low Increase, Full Day Kindergarten Included

    Last night, the Hopewell Valley Regional School District school board approved the preliminary budget for 2015-2016, which included both full-day (FREE) kindergarten for incoming students, as well as the lowest recorded general fund budget increase in HVRSD history.

    “This evening, we are presenting the preliminary budget to the Board of Education. Once approved by the board, the preliminary budget is sent to Executive County Superintendent for approval. The Executive County Superintendent reviews the budget as has the authority to question any line item,” explained Dr. Tom Smith, HVRSD Superintendent, “Once approved by Executive County Superintendent, the board will review any comments and vote on the final budget on April 27.”

    Last week, broke the news that full-day kindergarten was in the draft budget presentation from last week’s school board meeting, covered some of it live, and gave you an overview about what to expect, budget-wise, for next year. And, at last night’s meeting, there were no surprises.

    budget highlights

    Declining Enrollment in HVRSD
    Declining Enrollment in HVRSD

    When people talk about school budgets, there is a “2%” figure thrown around and that has to do with the general fund increase for the school budget. Statutorily, New Jersey school districts are not permitted to exceed 2%, which is the “2% cap.” This does not directly speak to your property tax increases — and this (very boring) issue will be addressed in a separate article promised by our resident property tax expert, Ryan Kennedy.

    “Kudos to the administration for bring in numbers that are reasonable,” said HVRSD school board president Lisa Wolff. “We knew there was declining enrollment, which justifies some slowing of spending, but the district has added a full day kindergarten program, at an additional cost of $720,000 included in the budget — these are actual costs but they district was able to use existing teachers to address the cost. Without full day kindergarten, the teachers would have been cut.

    The board has said throughout this that full day kindergarten was a priority. I am very impressed and happy with the budget the administration brought to us to approve because it comes in at the lowest general fund increase and includes all our priroties.”

    what is included in preliminary budget

    Dr. Smith reiterated that full-day kindergarten was certainly a priority for the district but it also came down to numbers.

    “Running two programs [half and full day] is not feasible. When we offered the extension, about 1/2 the parents were chosing extension, and now there are hardly anyone interested in half day at all,” said Dr. Smith. “In terms of program costs, we are able to work this out through existing staff and there is no cut in state aid.”

    The district administration and school board gave a nod of thanks to the Future Planning Committee, which met last year and recommended full-day kindergarten.

    “It was a representative sample of all the parents in the district and was a nice way to hear a sampling of what the community was looking for,” said Wolff.

    allocation of expedituresOne of the major items of discussion is the postponement of making facility improvements, namely the 6.5 million dollars of needed roof work throughout the district.

    “The district is accessing the most critical needs,” says HVRSD Business Administrator Robert Colavita, Jr. “And, as they come up, we will address them. These are nuisance leaks and everyone can be assured that we are maintaining our investment in these buildings.”

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